24 May 2006

B'nai B'rith Has Role in Promoting Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Secretary-General Tells Group during Annual Mission to United Nations

He Urges It to Help Prevent Genocide, Other Crimes against Humanity

NEW YORK, 23 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to the B'nai B'rith International Annual Mission to the United Nations, in New York yesterday, 22 May, as delivered by Angela Kane, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs:

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to B'nai B'rith International on the occasion of its annual mission to the United Nations.

Your visit comes at a time when the United Nations and the Jewish community continue to move closer together.  The United Nations is fully engaged in the struggle against anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.  Last year, in a long overdue observance, the General Assembly held a special session to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps.  And this year, on 27 January, we marked the first of what will now be an annual international day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust.  The United Nations is, I hope and believe, what it always should be -- a place where Jews and the State of Israel can feel at home.

We should be pleased about these developments, because our world faces immense challenges, and we need B'nai B'rith and groups like it to be engaged across the global agenda.

We need you in our work for human rights.  With a new Human Rights Council set to begin work next month, we have an opportunity to make a fresh start in this vital area, not least because the Council is required to conduct a regular review of the human rights record of all countries, beginning with its own members.  I urge you to use your influence to ensure that States make the Council a truly effective vehicle for upholding the highest standards of human rights.

We need your help in our efforts to prevent genocide and other crimes against humanity.  In a breakthrough at last September's World Summit, Member States acknowledged for the first time a collective international responsibility to protect populations at risk.  A test is now before us, in Darfur.  Pending a transition to a UN peacekeeping operation, the current African mission needs to be strengthened immediately.  We also need to buttress the massive UN-led aid effort, which is under threat because of deteriorating security and a funding shortfall.  I urge you to continue your advocacy on this crisis, and thank you for the contributions you have made to the humanitarian effort.

B'nai B'rith also has a continuing role to play in promoting a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The United Nations, with its partners in the Quartet, remains strongly committed to the goal of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, within secure borders, in peace and with mutual respect.  And we will continue doing our part to overcome the current obstacles, of which we are all painfully aware.

To these and other challenges, B'nai B'rith International brings long international experience and a global presence that extends to dozens of countries.  It is encouraging to know that during this visit to UN Headquarters, you are receiving briefings from UN officials and other members of the UN community.  I trust you will leave with a better understanding of what we are doing to adapt and renew the Organization, and a stronger sense of how your work complements ours.  Thank you again for your support, and please accept my best wishes for a memorable visit.

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